Equal Dignity without Discrimination
Photography by Ken Stein
The 1970’s and 1980’s were a time when people with disabilities tasted and enjoyed the first fruits of Independent Living; of the 1977 implementation of both Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); of deinstitutionalization; of sexuality and parenting; and of integration in the community, in education, and in civic and public life.
It was also a time when disability advocates and activists all over the country took to their legislatures, to the courts, and to the streets, demanding equal access and non-discrimination in areas not covered by 504 – in stores, restaurants, hotels, access to housing, public transit, and private employment. Culminating in 1990 with the successful passage of the ADA, when for the first time in history, people with disabilities were granted their civil rights in virtually all areas of public life.
The photos in this exhibit, by photographer Ken Stein, depict images of a world in revolutionary transition; a world embracing equal dignity without discrimination.
Founded in 1972, The Center for Independent Living (CIL) was the first independent living center in the country and the nation’s first disability rights advocacy group organized and operated by persons with disabilities. CIL became the center of the emerging independent living movement, based on the principle that people with disabilities are entitled to the same civil rights, options, and control over choices in their lives as people without disabilities.
For over fifty years, we have provided advocacy, programming and services for people with diverse disabilities; who are non-ambulatory or have reduced mobility; visual and hearing impairment; cognitive, psychiatric, and neurological disabilities; chronic illness; and reduced capacity due to aging.
CIL’s CORE Services are the programs that our organization was founded upon, including advocacy, counseling, housing assistance, and information and referral services. Since the organization’s birth 50 years ago, our programs have expanded to include Assistive Technology, Residential Access, Emergency Preparedness and Resiliency, Transportation Training, Living Well (Peer Counseling for Seniors), Youth Programs, and more!
For the past half century Ken Stein has actively worked to further the cause of Independent Living, Disability Access, and Disability Rights. From 1971-73 he was an early staff member of Bonita House, Berkeley’s first Halfway House for persons diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities; and before that was a volunteer at Napa State Mental Hospital.
He began working at Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living in 1974, and was the Program Administrator at the City of S.F. Mayor’s Office on Disability from 2002 to his retirement in 2013. For the ten years prior, he was the Manager of the National U.S. Department of Justice ADA Information Hotline at DREDF (The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund).
Over the past six decades, Ken’s speaking, writing, photography, and collection of artifacts have greatly informed and given voice to the history of the Bay Area Disability Rights Movement.
Ken’s disability rights historical photos have appeared in college textbooks and a wide variety of local, regional and national publications, from Ms. Magazine to the Christian Science Monitor. In 2007, his photos were the centerpiece of a six month photo exhibit: “Berkeley’s ‘Other’ Revolution: Celebrating 35 Years of Independent Living, Disability Access, and Disability Rights” in the windows of Rasputin Music on Telegraph Avenue, commemorating CIL’s 35th Anniversary, the 30th Anniversary of the 504 Demonstration, and honoring the Bay Area’s place as the birthplace and longtime spiritual center of the Independent Living Movement.
In June 2008 he was the featured photographer and keynote speaker at “History, Progress, Transformation: Vision of the Future,” a disability rights history photography exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. One of his disability rights demonstration photos – of Adam Bertaina – is in the collection of the National Civil Rights Museum at the site of the Lorraine Motel.
Prior to his retirement 10 years ago years ago, in his 43 year work-life in a number of Bay Area disability access and disability rights organizations, he provided information, referral and technical assistance to over 69,000 individuals, organizations, and public and private entities about their rights and obligations under state and federal disability civil rights laws. (Each of the calls had to be logged!).
While at DREDF, he developed and was Project Director of the Disability Civil Rights History Project, a landmark model project that taught disability rights history to primary and middle school students in the Berkeley public schools. And for ten years with the City of SF, he assisted in municipal public policy development.
Ken’s ‘504’ picket sign was previously on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History’s in-person and virtual exhibit, ‘The Disability Rights Movement’ adjacent to the Greensboro Mississippi Lunch Counter; and is currently on display – for the next 15 years – at the Smithsonian American Museum of History “Democracy Now: A Giant Leap of Faith” exhibition.
In 1996-97, he organized and was the Steering Committee Chair of The 504 Sit-In 20th Anniversary Celebration and Commemoration. In conjunction with that Anniversary event held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Committee – which served a free dinner to over 650 people! – produced a commemorative book, an 18 minute Video documentary (“The Power of 504”) and the 58 minute radio documentary, “We Shall Not Be Moved”
In 2000, his oral history from the “Disabled Persons Independent Living Movement Project” was published by UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office in the volume, “Builders and Sustainers of the Independent Living Movement in Berkeley.”
In recent years, Ken has has been a consultant and contributor to film and video projects, and has been a panelist on a number of disability rights history and disability awareness panels.